OPM Disability Retirement Application: Eligibility & Entitlement

The two concepts are often confused; for the Federal employee and the U.S. Postal Service worker filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, the frustration is often voiced precisely because of the misapplication of the legal import between them.

Eligibility is determined by the contingencies which must be met, the thresholds of prerequisites which must be satisfied:  The Federal or Postal employee must be either under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset; the minimum number of years of Federal Service must have been accrued; the Statute of Limitations must not have already passed; further, then, some age limitations need to be considered as a practical matter, to allow for pragmatic justification to even apply.

Entitlement is based upon proof.  As the law is set by statutory authority, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management requires that the Federal or Postal applicant meet certain preset standards of acceptable proof, based upon that which constitutes sufficiency of satisfaction.

The legal standard is based upon a “preponderance of the evidence“; the evidentiary requirement provides that a tripartite nexus be established between (A) the medical condition, (B) the Federal or Postal position which the Federal or Postal employee occupies, and (C) evidence showing that as a result of A, one or more of the essential elements of B cannot be satisfied.  Further, there is the “D” component, and that involves the issue of “reasonable accommodations” and whether the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service can reassign the Federal or Postal employee to a similar position at the same pay or grade.

It is only upon the initial satisfaction of eligibility requirements that the Federal or Postal employee can then further investigate whether entitlement is feasible or not.  Thus, “entitlement” in this sense is not based upon meeting eligibility requirements; rather, satisfaction of eligibility prerequisites allows for entrance into the gateway of establishing entitlement.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Attorney Representation in Federal Disability Claims: Directions

The crude form of the proverbial image formulated is:  Up the creek without a paddle, but normally with an epithet inserted.  It portrays a vivid scene of being in a symbolic state, directionless and without a means of guiding or maneuvering.  One is thus subject to the winds of time, the vicissitudes of circumstances beyond one’s control, immediate or otherwise, and where a growing storm of unforeseen proportions and magnitude is coming at a rate of ferocity uncontrollable and unable to be prepared for.

People with medical conditions have that sense of progressive disintegration, where the things that one has worked and strived so hard to achieve, are now in danger of loss and ruination. For the disabled Federal employee or the injured Postal worker who suffers from an accident or other health condition, such that the medical condition is impacting the capacity and ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, the growing fear of being swept aside by slow, insidious and deliberative steps by the agency — of a poor performance review; of initiating a “Performance Improvement Plan“, or a PIP; of threats of separation and termination because of one’s absenteeism and exhaustive use of LWOP; all point towards an inevitable direction which is far from the destination that the Federal or Postal employee wants to arrive at.

Lifeboats are funny things; they may save the life, but without a paddle, one may drift and yet fail to survive for lack of food or water.  Sustenance is the key to a life worthy of living.

For the Federal or Postal employee under FERS or CSRS, when a medical condition begins to threaten one’s employment with the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service, it may be time to consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Filed through one’s agency if one is still employed or separated from Federal Service but not for more than thirty one (31) days, the application is ultimately processed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for a determination of eligibility and entitlement.  It is a benefit which, in and of itself, provides for a basic annuity such that the sustenance of a livelihood is provided for, in order for the Federal employee or the Postal worker to attend to one’s health, and continue to look to a brighter future in the years ahead.

Thus, in that sense, Federal Disability Retirement is the needed oar for the man or woman in the proverbial boat, stranded up the mythological creek, waiting for the means to direct the drifting dictation of life’s daring demands.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: The Details Determine the Path of Success

One is often asked concerning the steps to be taken in order to formulate a successful Federal Disability Retirement application.  Whether under FERS or CSRS, all such Federal Disability Retirement applications will ultimately be reviewed and critically analyzed by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, to be determined as to whether such an application meets the legal standards for eligibility and entitlement under the statutes, regulations and case-laws governing Federal Disability Retirement.

As with all things in life, the path which one undertakes in an endeavor of this nature — the logistical “steps” that must be completed — will depend largely upon the particular facts of each case.  Yes, the general outline is somewhat identical for each; and, yes, the character and kind of evidence to be compiled may be similar.  But it is the uniqueness of the particular set of facts, for each Federal Disability Retirement application, which determines the type, extent and quality of a successful Federal Disability Retirement application.

Thus, to take an extreme example:  A Letter Carrier for the U.S. Postal Service who suffers a horrendous accident and becomes paralyzed, will not need much more than the emergency room and hospitalization records, and perhaps — and this is a “big” perhaps — a short (couple of sentences) statement from a doctor.

On the other hand, an IT Specialist working for a Federal agency who suffers extreme stress, will require a comprehensive medical report which details specific reasons as to the impact upon the positional requirements of his or her job.

As with almost everything in this complex compilation of sensory perceptions we identify as “life”, the details of a particular endeavor and encounter with a Federal Agency will determine the pathway to success; details matter, and in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is precisely the details which determine which devil will rear its ugly head, and how to avoid such devilish encounters.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Always Returning to the Basics

It is always important to return to basics when considering the option of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Just as we are all well-aware of the concepts of a “return to nature”, or going “back to our roots” — such fashionable sayings remind us of the need and the necessity of embracing the foundational virtues which make up any endeavor or activity — so it is with a return to basics in a Federal Disability Retirement case.

Whether it concerns the issue of the medical condition itself; the issue of accommodations; whether “light duty” or “modified duties” have been offered; whether there are EEOC issues, work harassment, Performance Improvement Plans initiated; whether one is being presented with a Proposed Removal based upon factors other than one’s physical or psychiatric inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job — all such issues must draw a line directly to the basic component of:  How does it impact the performing of the essential elements of my job?  Thus is the nexus created; thus does one go back to the basic components of a Federal Disability Retirement case.

While such an approach may not return us back to nature, it will provide a framework for a successful OPM Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Keeping it Simple

Simplicity merely covers the complexity behind the beauty of the uncomplicated.  Indeed, one only has to look upon an Apple product, or a modern automobile, to recognize the underlying complexities which went into the production of such simplicity.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, there is often a desire to respond to an OPM denial by attempting to understanding the apparent ‘complexity’ of the denial.  By ‘apparent’ is meant the following:  Most, if not all, of OPM’s denials are regurgitated templates from thousands of previous denials, and quotations of alleged legalese notwithstanding, the basic components of a Federal Disability Retirement case do not change just because the language used attempts to complicate matters.

In the end, driving a technologically advanced automobile still requires hands on the steering wheel, and a foot on the gas pedal and the brake (hopefully, not both at the same time).  All the rest are simply “whistles and horns” to make it appear worth the price tag.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Periodic Clarifications

Periodically, despite multiple prior blogs addressing certain issues, it becomes clear that confusions continue to abound, and a clarification is in order.

In many ways, such necessity for periodic clarifications only emphasizes the inherent complexities in Federal Disability Retirement law, despite the foundational simplicity of what needs to be proven.

Indeed, while the substantive law requires the primary basis of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, the nexus between one’s official positional duties, and the medical conditions which prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; nevertheless, there are numerous procedural issues and hurdles which must concurrently be met in order to qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Thus, for instance:  the Federal or Postal employee must file an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service — not 1 year from the date of being placed on LWOP, or from the “date of injury”, etc.

Further, SSDI must be filed by FERS employees, but of course Social Security will not even consider a filing for purposes of evaluating eligibility until a person has stopped working — nevertheless, for FERS Disability Retirement purposes, all that is necessary is a receipt showing that one has filed for Social Security Disability benefits.

And one more:  never wait for one’s agency to act in a Disability Retirement case; such waiting merely constitutes an act of futility, and one which almost always results with an adverse effect upon the Federal or Postal employee.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire